Dawn and Jeff Wooten of Wichita, Kansas will receive a check from Cells for Cells for $500 to spend as they need as they battle cancer and will receive $500 in services/consulting from Your Wellness Connection in Shawnee, Kansas.
Here’s their story:
On October 4, 2006 my husband Jeff was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma (a cancer of the plasma cells). What was so shocking about this, besides getting a cancer diagnosis, is that he was only 37 years old. This is a cancer that is most common in people over the age of 65. At the time of his diagnosis, we were living our dream in Alaska. We owned a small business and had decided that it was a good time for me to go to college full time. Because we owned our own business, we didn’t have any health insurance, but we were both young and healthy and weren’t all that concerned about it.
Living in Alaska has its perks; however, state-of-the-art cancer treatment wasn’t one of them. On October 18, 2006 we were on a plane heading back to Wichita, KS so we could be near family and meet with some doctors here. They told us that Jeff’s bone marrow was 80% cancer and there was no way we were going back home. With the help of our friends, we sold our house and put our belongings in storage. We moved in with Jeff’s parents and got to work fighting this disease.
Over the course of the past two and a half years, Jeff has participated in clinical trials, undergone two heavy rounds of chemotherapy, and had two stem cell transplants. It was almost a year into his treatment before we found an insurance company who was willing to insure him. It wasn’t cheap, but was something we desperately needed.
This cancer diagnosis changed every aspect of our lives. Suddenly we found our priorities changing. Things that used to seem so important just weren’t anymore. We decided to stop saying “some day we want to do this” or “someday we want to go there” and we started taking small weekend trips just to get away from it all and spend time together. We didn’t know how much time we had left together so we just started making memories.
We had so many people reach out to us and want to help us, and I soon realized how much I wanted to help other people as well. I involved myself with the American Cancer Society and sat on the committee to help plan the Cattleman’s Ball. We started going to support group meetings at a local organization called Victory in the Valley. I volunteered some time working in their office and it wasn’t long before I was asked to head the support group meetings. Unfortunately, our small group started to fall apart so we no longer meet. I am still the contact person for all new myeloma patients and family members if they would like to talk to someone who understands what they are going through. I also learned of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and contacted them. I was amazed at how much they do to help people with blood cancers in our communities. I signed our family up as a team to help raise money for Light the Night. In 2007, Team Wooten raised almost $7,500 for LLS. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was and how grateful I felt to all those who supported us. I continue to stay involved with Light the Night, even though we haven’t come close to that number again!
We just celebrated Jeff’s 40th birthday this past weekend (his birthday is March 3rd). Two and a half years ago we were told that we might only have six more months together. In one week we have his one year post-transplant doctor appointment and are crossing our fingers that we hear the words “Congratulations, you are still in remission!” In honor of this milestone, I have decided to cut and donate my hair to help give another woman her confidence back.
We look at everyone we meet so differently now. You can’t tell just by looking at us that we struggle with this thing every day. There is no cure for Jeff’s cancer. We know it’s going to come back. We just don’t know when and that is always with us. All we can do is be kind to one another, smile at a stranger, and give back whenever we can.
That is our story. I don’t know if this is what you are looking for or not, but I still wanted to share it with you. Thank you for taking the time to read it.
If helping families devastated by medical bills is worthwhile to you, please join us in this historical endeavor by recycling your cell phones with Cells for Cells.
Most importantly, if you know a deserving family, battling cancer, who desperately needs help paying medical bills (perhaps it’s your family or a co-worker’s), please put them in touch with Cells for Cells.